I watched Batman: The Animated Series when it was first aired back in the early to mid 90’s. It came on shortly after I got home from school. This was during a new era of junk that would grace televisions to include updates of old cartoons which featured self centered versions of characters using modern consumer electronics, and new situation comedies that somehow highlighted the worst parts of the genre, yet introducing highly polished practices that could only have come from executive meetings attempting the lowest common denominator strategy.
For myself, I set aside my television for great spans of time, turning to books, artwork, and outdoor play. The search for food energy also contributed to leaving behind prime time television. Yes, it was the Batman series, The Simpsons near dinner, and finally, late at night, what would become Comedy Central featured Mystery Science Theater 3000. From time to time, MTV’s liquid television featured some oddities worth watching, and Aeon Flux was featured there.
For those who missed the Batman Animated Series, you can search the show online, only to discover it was ranked the second best animation show after The Simpsons. It garnered much praise for the work put in to it on all aspects, the Noir look, the musical score, voice acting… the list goes on. The show rendered a full length animated movie, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, which I went to watch five times by myself, and there were only about seven or eight people in the theater each time. Low and behold, this movie too received high praise.
The Animated Series was loosely tied, if mostly by the revenue crew at Warner Brothers, to the Batman movies at the time, the first in 1989, followed by getting to see my movie crush, Michelle Pfeiffer, in a DIY catsuit a few years later. The live movies which followed would nose dive as they played to “family values” instead of the artistic work of Batman, as a world, and person. The animated series would later inspire the reboot of Batman movies from Chris Nolan. On a side note, I have a message for whomever is responsible for casting actors in the past 20 years: When you keep switching actresses to fill one character over two or more films, it takes the view out of the world the movie creates to get lost in. Instead, you simply see the real life person brought in to fix the cry from the public, who didn’t like the first pick. In short, please cast people who can become those characters. Also, just because you’re wearing a skin tight, black suit, and your headgear kind of makes it look like you have cat ears…..nope. While I’m no fan of campy versions of my favorite comic book heroes, when you have a character named CATWOMAN, she needs to incorporate some behavior or method that is similar to what an actual cat does. Not to do your work for you….for free…but….the claws of a cat are fairly prominent and easy to adapt to a person committing crime. Moving silently/being sneaky, also quite noticeable in cats, yet might benefit a jewel their. Of not as criminally useful an attribute, but certainly in some instances, biting someone who is rubbing your belly…..Cats do that.
If you’re unfamiliar with the animated series, please keep in mind, I’m referring to the original one. There have been a few follow on series that have a similar look, but once again, they are clearly business choices instead of artistic endeavors. Even the animated world is not immune to retooling itself to sell men with barrel chest who solve every problem with a punch, and female characters who’s “super powers” seem to be an impossibly tiny waist, perky breasts, and kissing. Its fine if your female characters are in shape, just please have them use their superpowers and wit to help those in need.
Aaaannnnnyyywho…… Well, I’ve done up another construction paper set of images from the Series for my kids. This one going to my son. I chose these scene for it’s powerful emotional context. Below, we have Batman atop one of Gotham’s buildings, his eyes closed for a brief moment, contemplating his life, perhaps tired from the nights work. The small comfort of that moment broke by the Bat signal, and Batman opening his eyes to see his rest or reflection is short lived. He is needed somewhere, and answers that call.